Hi all, Atvelonis here. Welcome to the '20s! I hope life is treating you well. As I did in 2019, I would like to take a moment on this calm winter evening to address the wiki community as a whole in regard to the progression of the site from my perspective as its most senior active administrator and its sole bureaucrat. I have always valued clear, direct communication between staff and users, and believe quite strongly that my position obligates me to facilitate discussions about the state of the wiki, the structure and performance of the team, and the desires of our editors, in terms of both content and society. I will attempt to touch upon some of my thoughts on these matters herein.
2019 saw 136,725 edits in all namespaces and the addition of more than 3,000 articles 9,000 files to our already massive encyclopedia, with more constantly on their way. This was possible in large part due to the regular updates to our resident MMO, The Elder Scrolls Online, which brought four additional DLCs into the fold: Wrathstone, Elsweyr, Scalebreaker, and Dragonhold. We also saw a huge influx of content documenting the strategy card game The Elder Scrolls: Legends and its new expansions, Isle of Madness, Alliance War, Moons of Elsweyr, and Jaws of Oblivion. This is of course not to forget the release of The Elder Scrolls: Blades earlier this year on a range of devices whose TES capabilities have been, until recently, decidedly limited.
These new releases have in tandem dropped a whole host of new exciting editorial challenges (and opportunities) at our doorstep, which I believe we have taken in stride. I would gather a list of editors who have done exceptional content work this year, but there are honestly far too many for that to be feasible. To each and every one of the people who contributed in any way, thank you. Your presence and continual effort is very much appreciated. It is my intention to accelerate the frequency and intensity of content addition on the wiki in 2020 and beyond. By taking full advantage of the Discord server in particular, I hope to attract a broader set of users to the encyclopedia and thereby increase our productivity significantly.
Last New Year's, I set the lofty goal of promoting two more patrollers and two more administrators to the team, knowing full well that this would be difficult. We have extremely stringent prerequisites for becoming a staff member relative to most of our fellow wikis—a bare minimum of three months of activity, anywhere from 250 to 5000 edits, and significant visible actions corresponding to the position in question—with the added (unwritten) expectation of a unanimous or near-unanimous supporting vote cast by members of the community. It is a system intentionally designed to weed out people who are interested exclusively in the supposed status of a leadership role in favor of those who are dedicated fundamentally to serving the wiki and its users.
This has its perks; I have never had the pleasure of working with a team as coordinated, thoughtful, and supportive as the current staff, and all things considered, I believe that we've done quite a good job maintaining this behemoth of a database and all of its subordinate functions over the course of the last year. The tone of the community, likewise, has been consistently positive and cooperative. There are not a lot of people here who had to deal with the bitterness of 2013–14, culminating in the exodus of the entire active administration—and if you joined more recently, you really didn't miss much. TESWiki in days of yore had its high points and its low points, of course, but I am confident in the assertion that where we are now as a community is in all conceivable ways preferable to the drama, bickering, nonsense, and disorganization that we faced over half a decade ago.
Regardless, despite the many advantages offered by the tight system of user rights management that we employ, it has the additional quality of making viable and willing candidates relatively difficult to find. There are actually a fair number of users who meet the requirements for a staff role, but experience has proven to me that they tend to need just a bit of nudging to realize that they are indeed fit for it. We did not promote four more editorial staff members in 2019, but we hit three—and that's pretty darn good, given the fact that there has not been a main series release since 2011. In February, we welcomed Rupuzioks to the team as a patroller, followed in April by returning administrator The Cat Master, and in October by our very own Australian patroller GreyFox06. Another one of my goals was to expand the size of our news team, which was accomplished in April when Stygies VIII joined Poisoned apples in the role. Many thanks to each of you for patrolling Recent Changes, blocking troublemakers and deleting nonsense, and writing weekly updates throughout the year! Your commitment to the encyclopedia is laudable, and I cannot overstate how humbled I am to be able to work with you in this capacity.
In August, CarloV3r stepped down from two and a half years of serving as an administrator. To him I wish the best of luck and success in all facets of life. It has been a pleasure. Know too, Carlo, that you are cordially invited to return to the editorial fray at any point in the future, if you so desire!
One of my long-term plans for the wiki is to reduce what is known as its bus factor, or the number of specific persons critical to its functional operation, without whom the project cannot meaningfully progress in immediacy. This figure, in my estimation, has been singular for an uncomfortable period of time. To speak candidly, I have led or at least overseen nearly all significant administrative, editorial, and community matters on TESWiki since the success of my bureaucrat application in 2016. I did not have any particular intention of becoming a staff member when I first joined the wiki in August 2014, much less an admin or crat, but an interest in contributing to the wiki as an institution and various community-focused circumstances placed me in a position to comfortably step into an editorial role (patroller) in January 2015, and an authoritative leadership one (sysop) in March.
As a personal rule in my life—both on and off the internet—I take any and all responsibility handed to me extremely seriously, to the extent that one may do such a thing without completely epitomizing Dwight Schrute. I have always been irritated by the simultaneously unfocused, distant, and overbearing attitude taken up by a great many of those in managerial roles, and the utter lack of disinterest with which said persons adjudicate on personal or professional disputes. As a child, I had my first formal set of responsibilities in regard to being in charge of other people as I took up leadership roles in my old Scout troop, eventually becoming an Eagle Scout. This may sound a little bit corny, and it certainly is, but many of the values I have grown to truly respect and embody were derived from the Law I swore upon on a weekly basis: "A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent."
I have actually never articulated this in an address to the community, but these ideals have in large part been the driving force behind my motivation to participate in and systematically improve the inner workings of the wiki for all these years. If it is not already obvious from my person, you will notice a number of similar traits praised in my guide on administrative theory. When I take up a responsibility, I am simply not capable of letting it go without an extremely thorough contingency plan in place. Such a plan must ensure that the process by which the tasks associated with this responsibility are carried out is not negatively altered by my giving it up; c'est-à-dire, I'm going to do everything myself until I can be certain that it will work near-flawlessly on its own. I am a perfectionist and an idealist at heart, and a pragmatist only out of necessity. In the context of the wiki, these ideals have manifested in the following long-term projects:
- To massively improve and continually facilitate close communication between all authority figures and active editors, ensuring that the staff in particular have the skills required to perform the duties that their positions demand of them. This is the primary reason why I have maintained a relatively to very active presence in Slack, Discord, and on the Discussions for the duration of my tenure.
- To document every single piece of relevant information that someone hypothetically filling my shoes or those of a fellow staff member, temporarily or permanently, would have to know in order to get the job done effectively. Note my obsession with template documentation, administrative theory and practice, wiki history, MediaWiki organization, bot programming, and a great deal more. My admin guide in particular is my magnum opus; every generically applicable piece of advice I could come up with is in there, ranging from suggestions on how to manage user rights to all resources necessary for you to write a comprehensive weekly update.
- To set up both explicit systems and informal environments in which kindness, attentiveness, proficiency, and co-support self-propagate among users. This is of course applicable to anyone, but in particular to the staff. Should I be momentarily or perpetually barred from working in my role as an administrator, my goal is for each individual staff group to have the agency in and of itself to carry on its duties without my guiding hand. To some extent, I believe that I have already succeeded in this.
- After several years of keeping a fairly tight watch on the Discussions, for instance, I have been able to more or less step away from actively micromanaging every single action made on the platform, leaving such things to our dedicated forum moderators. I still keep half an eye on the place, but I am relatively comfortable in saying that were I to disappear, the Discussions would get on fine without me.
- I happen to keep a very close watch on the Discord server, reading just about every message that gets sent in it. My doing so, however, is not strictly necessary. The server receives active enough moderation from staff representing different usergroups, including dedicated chat moderators but also those in non-social roles, like patrollers—and is in many respects self-policing—that, like the Discussions, the level of my personal presence would not affect the nature of the platform all that much.
- Although I took it upon myself to write the majority of the weekly updates from March 2016 to August 2017, since then I have made an effort to delegate this task almost exclusively to other staff members, particularly members of the news team. I have no problem stepping in and writing an update if need be, but as it stands, I would very much like to ensure that the news folks always remain capable of operating independently. As a sub-institution of the wiki, it is easier to spread out the workload between multiple members of the news team based on conventional practices (i.e. an actual schedule) than to consistently assign work to a single person, alternating only out of necessity, and probably with lateness.
- The promotion of two additional patrollers has made it astronomically easier for us to keep up with the hundreds of edits and image uploads showing up on the Recent Changes log each day. At various points in 2018 and early 2019, I was spending hours per day trying desperately to catch up with the tide, only to be overwhelmed and have to take a break to avoid stressing myself out too much. I was able to cut down on the amount of crude vandalism being added by expanding our existing Abuse Filters, but this can only do so much; most of the time-consuming edits to review are done in good faith and simply require a lot of complicated or in-depth fact-checking, which takes a while. Being able to consistently rely on others to help out in this regard has been very helpful, although I would still like to promote one or two more patrollers in the coming year. Planning for the future, the release of The Elder Scrolls VI is going to swamp us no matter what, but we can try to prepare as best we can anyway.
- With the promotion of one administrator and the departure of another, we are in a similar place as we were at this time last year as far as sysop self-sufficiency is concerned. The vandalism in progress page and deletion candidates don't clear themselves, and mild editorial or social disputes regularly call for the mediation of one or more administrators. While I think that the active sysops, The Cat Master and I, have done a pretty reasonable job of keeping such things going, I am acutely aware of the fact that our schedules are frequently busy enough that a backlog begins to build up after some time, or certain actions just end up getting rushed. In the long term, I still intend to alleviate this with the promotion of an additional administrator; preferably two, but this remains to be seen.
- I have been the only person actively operating a bot on the wiki for quite some time, but Stygies VIII was recently approved to operate SothaSilBot, which should in the future alleviate my chronic inability to find enough time to carry out all of the maintenance that needs to get done. I believe that it would be prudent, however, to get some more bots running.
- As mentioned above, I am still the wiki's sole bureaucrat. I am comfortable remaining in this position for as long as it is necessary, but it is not a particularly good idea to concentrate effective control over the wiki in the hands of a single person for an extended duration. Clearly, I believe myself to be perfectly capable of managing user rights on my own, and mentally and morally sound enough to do so first and foremost with the interest of the wiki in mind. However, I am somewhat skeptical of this pseudo-dictatorial position and would, when a suitably active, interested, and capable candidate emerges, be willing to serve alongside another crat. The only difficulty here is cultivating the same level of commitment and reliability that I expect of myself in another. Such things take a very, very long time, and cannot be rushed.
- To design article content and other elements of the wiki in a way that will limit over-complexity and maximize reader understanding and editor navigability. I consider the maintenance and standardization of the File and Category namespaces in particular to be absolutely essential to this, and vastly under-recognized aspects of the wiki.
For the record, I would like to clarify that I have no intention of stepping down from any of my roles, becoming perpetually inactive, or otherwise abandoning the wiki. If anything, becoming a Wiki Manager this year has made me even more devoted to the site, and my love for and attachment to the TESWiki community only continues to grow as time goes on. I bring up the bus factor because there is a non-zero chance that I will die, become shockingly busy in real life, or otherwise become unavailable here at some point in the future. This is not foreshadowing; I am in excellent health and I personally believe that I am pretty good at time management (and looking both ways before I cross the street). However, it is no secret that I am also a very, very busy person, and like all other editors here, have a life of my own to attend to. This wiki is a lovely hobby, but it is far from the sole reason that I exist in the universe. I, like anyone, may need to take some time off here and there, and it gives me peace of mind to know that the place can function without me.
This blog is not an "action plan" quite so much as the last one because my goals surrounding article content and site growth as a whole are more or less the same as they were in 2019. It is not particularly often that I am compelled to discuss the matters of the bureaucracy with the wider community, though, so I have taken the opportunity above to write a great many things that would otherwise be trapped exclusively inside my head. I love this wiki, its traditions, its staff, and its community, and cannot begin to explain how thankful and appreciative I am to be able to contribute to an encyclopedia whose environment is as pleasant as this one's. Your hard work means a lot to me and to the millions of fans out there who use TESWiki as a resource for information about the series. Remember always the value of the preservation of knowledge for its own sake. I am your humble servant. Thank you.